Dom Casmurro Chapter 3


I was about to enter the living-room when I heard my name mentioned and hid behind the door. The house was the one in Matacavalos, the month was November and the year somewhat remote, but I don’t intend to change the dates of my life just to please those who don’t like old stories; the year was 1857.

‘Dona Glória, are you still intending to send our Bentinho to the seminary? It’s high time he went, and now there may be a problem.’

‘Problem? What problem?’

‘A difficult problem.’

My mother wanted to know what it was. José Dias, after a few moments’ consideration, came to see if there was anyone in the corridor. Not noticing me, he returned and, lowering his voice, said that the problem was in the house next door: the Páduas.

‘The Páduas?’

‘I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time, but hardly dared. It doesn’t seem right to me that our Bentinho should be hiding away in corners with the Tortoise’s daughter. That’s the problem, because if they start flirting seriously you’ll have a difficult job separating them.’

‘I don’t believe it. Hiding away in corners?’

‘In a manner of speaking. Secretly. Always together. Bentinho is never out of their house. The girl is a scatterbrain. The father pretends not to notice, probably hoping things will turn out so that … I understand your reaction. You don’t believe people can be so calculating, thinking that everyone is as well-meaning and honest …’

‘But, Senhor José Dias, I’ve seen the two playing together and noticed nothing whatever suspicious. Think of their age: Bentinho is barely fifteen, and Capitu was fourteen only last week. They are only children. Don’t forget they have been brought up together ever since that great flood in which the Pádua family lost so much. That was when we got to know each other. And now you expect me to believe … What do you think, Brother Cosme?’

Uncle Cosme replied with a ‘Hum’, which translated into ordinary language might mean ‘José Dias is imagining things. The kids enjoy themselves. I enjoy myself. Where’s the backgammon?’

‘Yes, I think you must be mistaken.’

‘It’s possible. I hope you are right. Believe me, I would not have spoken without giving the matter the most careful thought …’

‘In any case, it’s time he went,’ interrupted my mother. ‘I’ll see about sending him to the seminary right away.’

‘Well, as long as you haven’t given up the idea of making a priest of him, that’s the main thing. Bentinho must do as his mother wishes. And then the Brazilian Church has a great destiny. We must not forget that a bishop presided over the Constituent Assembly and that Father Feijó governed the empire …’

‘Governed my foot!’ put in Uncle Cosme, giving way to old political rancour.

‘Pardon me, doctor. I’m not defending anyone, merely stating facts. What I want to say is that the clergy still has an important role to play in Brazil.’

‘What you want is a good drubbing. Come on, go and fetch the backgammon. As for the boy, it would be better if he didn’t start saying mass behind doors. But look here, Sister Glória, does he really have to be a priest?’

‘It’s a promise and has to be kept.’

‘I know you made a promise. But a promise like that … I don’t know … I think if we considered it carefully … What do you think, Cousin Justina?’


‘The truth is that each one knows what is best for himself,’ went on Uncle Cosme. ‘Only God knows what is best for everyone. But a promise made so many years ago …What’s this, Sister Glória? Are you crying? Come now. Is this a matter for tears?’

My mother blew her nose without answering. I think Cousin Justina got up and went to her. There was a long silence, and I was just about to enter the room, but something held me back, a stronger feeling … I couldn’t catch the words that Uncle Cosme suddenly spoke. Cousin Justina was pleading, ‘Cousin Glória! Cousin Glória!’ José Dias was apologizing. ‘If I had known I wouldn’t have spoken – but I did so out of respect, out of esteem, out of affection, to fulfil a duty, the bitterest of duties.’